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01 December, 2016

Philosophical thinking about styles and templates, or "Where the iceberg basis is hidden?"

Reading articles about working in LibreOffice on various websites, including blogs, I always meet with the lack of understanding, which makes these articles fit only for a basic use. However, for the office, and for people who often use LibreOffice and not want to think about how entry should be shown, but only what they are writing, the concept of styles and templates is very important. This article is not a lesson of use, but an attempt to give the rod, frame, idea, around which it will be possible to strengthen your knowledge. And I hope that it will help you to bring together existing and easier to accept new ones.

Where the iceberg root is hidden to be known to all. But where misunderstanding is known – usually nobody reflects. Most people don't think how they use their programs. Or rather, they can say how they get used to use, but don't think, why they got used to do so. However, this thing has the specific root, also as and the basis of an iceberg. I would like to tell my point of view. It is not complete. I have not conducted researches, but I really have thought about it, and it is not far from reality. In the early '80s many used programs such as WordStar for editing text. Do you remember it? If you haven't managed to use it or already have forgot how it looks, I can give you some unique: notepad in Windows and nano, gedit, kate в Linux. Imagine how to format text in there? Yes, only intuitively: with help of keystroke Enter, space and (only elect uses) Tab. And as it wouldn't look strange, but many people use this way for formatting of a text, even in the Computer Science departments of universities, though they are using MS Office 2010 and later. And they probably do not know that in these "primitive" applications, at least in the world of Open Source, there are macros and add-ins for easy formatting of first line indent, alignment to the right, string formatting by 80 characters.

But users had no time to learn all of this: a lot of work, children are hungry, and "Chief" requires a new look for the document. AND… In the next generation of office applications were "buttons" formatting: bold, italic... Сlicking on the buttons is called “directly formatting" now. That are beautiful , they always are in front of face. "Click on the button, you will get the result." And although the lyrics of Technology group were about another, but that's already a reflex act of most users. For many years (actually, about 10 years) in MS Office only like this and can be formatted text. Styles? No, never have heard of.

But now MSO also have styles. Yes, they are, they're just hidden. I think that they came from an online programming, and it was the logical evolution of the text documents. But I know that only a not many people know their existence, and only a few from them is trying to use styles in MSO. This is also a problem, Microsoft «invented» styles in text documents, but had forgotten to tell about them. "Go, aimlessly, but did not look where stepped" - Milorad Pavic. They are hidden, they are editing is not intuitive, they are not easily controlled. Although internal document based on the use of styles. Аnd it would be logical to use them, but in fact, it is often not convenient. Google, too, in his "online-WordStar" came up to the styles. I am horrified when I represent that I have work in this, even with all those advantages, which are at google. But many people like it, because they do not know that the work which they are doing, they can make in dozen of times faster. Of course I missed a lot of interesting things about word processors, but to our topic today is not really a relationship.

Well, here we got to the descendants. These products are developed to work  with the concept of style. Not only their use, but also to create and inheritance. Why document must be formatted of the  over and over again, at that by methods, many of which are not used for more than 15 years, spending the time on it, strength, nerves? And if all of a sudden, "the chief said," he does not like how to make paper, and 50 pages need to remake in another way ... it is business hours, sometimes even days ... plus bloopers, mistakes, failures. But people continue. And I meet almost all the documents again and again, people tread on a rake very strenuously. What for? In fact, everything is very simple: habit and laziness.

If you think that the styles take place, or it seems to you that no style is better, I can assure you: styles exist in any document of the modern office suite. Even an empty MS Word document already has a style of the first paragraph and page style. The documents produced by modern office suites (even GoogleDrive) have styles - is the foundation document reality and inevitability. You can only choose: to ignore this reality and make it work for you.

In fact, some people try to use styles, but they refuse because they feel that it is very difficult and long. It is necessary to adjust, sometimes dozens of styles, all of this takes time. And of course they throw it up. But remember that you can use templates.

Most of us are writing very similar documents. In fact, if we try to classify our documents, it appears that they are only 5-6 species. That is, every time we start to write documents over and over again. Clever people of the past, at the dawn of the electronic document, recognizing this trend, invented templates. Template - is an unfinished document, which holds the maximum amount of work for the majority of these documents. Of course, the same templates have evolved from pieces of formatted text in the interactive ones (sometimes in small programs), which is now. Of course, I had the idea to highlight patterns in a separate document (File → Save As ...), just to ensure that it is not confused at hand. If you are using a modern operating system, then you probably have a special folder under templates. Placing the template there, you can create a new document from the context menu of your file manager. But what is more remarkable, when you open a document from a template, the program offers to save a new document (no template). Thus, your initial template will remain unchanged. And it is very convenient. But for some reason people do not take advantage of this invention? To understand what kinds of documents we use, we have to stop and put our workplace in order. But: the habit and laziness. And no one ever will do for you the job just as efficiently, as you can do it yourself if you want to save your time and forget about laziness to learn, and fear to the new.

For 90% of users of word processors, it is possible to say that the possibilities of styles and templates are endless. But let's order. What we can and what we can do? First you need to remember that all formatting in LibreOffice is divided into 2 groups: directly formatting (the one that is done with the "buttons in front of user nose") and styles. Styles are divided into user (the ones that the user has created) and preset. In addition, the styles, for example Writer divided into paragraph styles, character, frame (frame, formulas, notes, watermarks), pages and lists. If we exclude the field, this is all that a person normally uses. That is, we can customize styles using all at the same time, we can create and delete custom styles, or customize and hide (not to interfere) preinstalled. And if you stop for a moment and simply (without textbooks) will walk on setting styles (Right click on a style → Modify ...), then you will see that you have great opportunities.

But manual formatting is not subject for styles. It has priority, and if we have done something by "a button in front of his nose," that we will continue to work with these "the buttons." No, of course there is the item of the right click → «Clear directly formatting", but as an evil, sometimes this thing does not work and the design team wanted to delete one. Some documents (not native to LibreOffice Writer) have a glitch for some reason. So you need to learn to beat your hand when you trying to go to a "button."

As I said above, the whole force of styles beginning to be felt when you are using templates. The fact that the configuration template stores all styles. That is, you open a template and the styles you are ready, those that are not needed - are hidden, those that need - adjusted. All you need - is to enter the text and select the desired style. And if you feel suddenly (chief says), that something needs to be changed, then changing one style, you change the view of the entire document at once. And it's really great. When I needed at the last moment to edit the 80 pages of the technical enquiry, I was very grateful of this opportunity.

But even if you do not use manual formatting, the first time, you may be difficult. The fact that you need to understand the structure of your document. Old manual formatting method is good that we do not need to think, we as a three-year-olds with a coloring book, a chat and left, in the hope that we never have to do it again. Work with styles require effortless. And it stops very many users, forcing they to return to a comfortable state of not-thinking. But in fact, the effort is required only in the beginning of . The more often you use styles, the sooner you understand what the structure will have a document, and the faster you will run. As a result, you will not even waste time on unnecessary activities. It's like with the touch typing, it seems to us that we quickly typing by fingers, but  the touch typing is slowly, but with practice comes speed, and suddenly it turns out that four fingers are much slower. But at first, we need to strain.

So literally, our limitations are located directly in our head.

Just a couple of words about the templates. At the time, I was faced with an obsession that the template is a piece of text. And now you know that's not true. But I would like to tell you something else. Template except letters and styles can contain macros, field, protected areas, subdocuments. Stop in this place, realize this fact, think how you can use it in your work. In some situations, the template can make up to 99% (eg in applications notes, data samples) of your work, in some, of course only 2-3% (formatting newsletters, brochures). But stop and think, is it bad that some work will be done almost by itself?

In conclusion, I would like to paraphrase, to remind you of an old Japanese proverb: Work - a reality, a waste of time - choice.

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